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It's the Law

Buying or Selling a Vessel or Motor


The procedure for buying or selling, or otherwise acquiring, a vessel or motor is outlined on the “Watercraft/Motor Application” forms that can be obtained from the SCDNR website (www.dnr.sc.gov/boating/boatingforms.html) or from the Boat Titling and Registration Office of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The process is essentially the same whether the “seller” is a marine dealer or an individual selling a pre-owned boat.

The sale of a vessel or outboard motor without a title is prohibited.

If a registered vessel or motor is sold or transferred to another person:

  • The “buyer” must apply for the Certificate of Number and title to be transferred to his or her name within 30 days from the date of purchase.
  • The “seller” must provide the SCDNR, in writing, a description of the vessel or motor sold, name and address of the buyer, and date of sale within 30 days of the date of sale.

A new or used vessel with expiration decals may be operated for up to 60 days from the date of purchase when the temporary watercraft certificate (which comes attached to the application) and a bill of sale are carried on board.

The SCDNR has a service, SC Boat Facts, that gives information on vessels and motors. This information has been provided to the SCDNR by the owner, law enforcement agencies, and county tax collectors.

  • To access SC Boat Facts, visit the website at www.dnr.sc.gov/boating.html. For vessel information, you need the South Carolina registration number. For motors, you need the serial number.
  • For additional tax information contact the reporting county or the county where the vessel is registered.

To make sure you are not buying a stolen vessel:

  • Make sure the HIN on the title matches the HIN on the vessel.
  • Inspect the HIN on the vessel to ensure that it has not been altered in any way.

Where to Title and Register

You can carry out your registration and titling transactions by mail or in person.

By Mail:

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Boat Titling and Registration
P.O. Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202

In Person:

1000 Assembly St., Rm. 104
Columbia, SC 29201

217 Fort Johnson Rd.
Charleston, SC 29422

Some requests and renewals also can be handled on the SCDNR website.

For more information or for forms, call the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Boat Titling and Registration Office at 803-734-3857, reach them by fax at 803-734-4138, or visit the website at www.dnr.sc.gov.